Mystery Science Theater 3000: Season 13 (Backer Exclusive)Overview -
In the not-too-distant future, somewhere between network television and Netflix, Mystery Science Theater 3000 returns for its 13th season! Crowd-funded and premiering on the new online theater space The Gizmoplex, Jonah, Crow, Servo, and newcomer Emily and series creator Joel return to take on some of the most entertaining bad movies of all time. Currently only available as a backer-exclusive Blu-ray release, fans can enjoy 12 hilarious new episodes on 7 discs with an 8th disc for bonus features and plenty of shorts to fill your collection. Highly Recommended
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
With more lives as a cat, the fan-favorite ode to the best worst movies ever made Mystery Science Theater 3000 has endured for 35 years. From its gritty early days on KTMA to its peak on Comedy Central to its third life on Sci-Fi Channel to its resurrection on Netflix to its reincarnation on the Gizmoplex, this little puppet movie show always finds a way to survive. If you’re of a certain age, you were either passing along home-recorded tapes or if you were internet savvy downloading the episodes before legal copies were issued - or if you were like me did all three! I’ve seen MST3k come and go so many times now I’ve learned not to worry and just relax, there’s always going to be MST3k on somewhere.
After their cancelation from Netflix, series creator Joel Hodgson and his partners at Shout Factory dug in deep and recontextualized how the world gets to enjoy its favorite old and new Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. For the 13th season, they built The Gizmoplex, a dedicated online theater where you can catch up on old episodes, watch the premieres of new ones, or just kick back to some fun live streams hosted by various members of the cast and crew. A place for Misties like you and me to live happy and free with our favorite flicks. To usher in their new viewing space (and after a massively successful crowdfunding effort) we got to enjoy 13 new episodes - including their first 3-D Halloween episode feature!
As a supporter, I watched along with each new episode and I happily noticed something about this new season - it feels scrappier and more homemade than the Netflix episodes. Those two Netflix seasons weren’t exactly high-budget episodes, but there was a feel of extra glitz and polish that never quite sat right with the series, no matter how funny the episodes were. But that changed for Season 13. From the new opening credits to the invention exchanges to just the general vibe of each episode, I felt like a lot of the original heart and creativity that got me through the Joel and Mike years was back.
Felica Day as Kinga Forrester and Patton Oswalt as Max - the high-haired Son of TV’s Frank - felt sillier and more irreverent. Jonah Ray (as Jonah Heston) despite clearly losing some pounds between seasons felt funnier with a sharper wit and timing to his host segment zingers. Newcomer Emily Marsh (as Emily Connor) was a very welcome addition to the show as she graduated from doing the traveling live shows to full host. And for an added touch - we also got to see the return of Joel in uniform for one more solo episode. All three team up for the aptly challenging The Christmas Dragon. Along for the ride we have Baron Vaugh and Conor McGiffin as the studly Tom Servo. Hampton Yount and Kelsey Ann Brady share duties for the miscreant Crow T. Robot. Rebecca Hanson and Yvonne Freese give GPC (previously known as Gipsie) all the vocals a cool working gal could possibly need.
While I really enjoyed Seasons 11 and 12, Season 13 genuinely felt like the show found its place in this modern era. True to every season, not every episode is the best of the best, but I felt like the writing was sharper, the riffing was better timed and funnier. Most importantly this season felt like everyone was being sillier, more creative, and just looked as though they were having more fun with the show.
Here are the hilarious cinematic turkeys you get to feast on this season:
- Santo in the Treasure of Dracula
- Robot Wars
- Beyond Atlantis
- Doctor Mordrid
- Demon Squad
- Gamera vs Jiger
- The Bat Woman
- The Million Eyes of Sumuru
- The Shape of Things to Come
- The Mask (2D and Anaglyph 3D)
- The Christmas Dragon
It’s difficult to pick a favorite of this season, there are some new classics in the mix. Santo in the Treasure of Dracula is a terrific right-out-of-the-bag episode. The movie is a weird one, to say the least, and the bizarre structure of what feels like several different films in one lends to some great riffing. Likewise, Robot Wars is another great feature - the character costumes alone lead to some of the best laughs. Most interesting for this season was the series’ first Halloween special and 3-D episode with The Mask - not the Jim Carrey flick. Kino Lorber previously issued this one on Blu-ray 3D with 3-D Film Archive doing the conversion work - but that’s not the version we see here. Instead, the 3-D segments when the film yells at you to “Put The Mask On” are in red/blue Anaglyph (glasses not included). The 3-D is effective enough for the bizarre nightmare sequences, but the episode is also available in 2-D and the riffs are excellent regardless. And any time you can get Gamera back on MST3k you’re in for a treat! And with that, we’re now waiting to see if we’ll get to enjoy Season 14. Currently crowdfunding the next episodes, we have a bright future for the series with many more laughs coming our way. Just remember - turn the lights down where necessary and have fun!
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season Thirteen comes to Blu-ray from Shout Factory. This 8-disc set is currently a Backer-exclusive release. So far we haven’t seen plans for a standard release for folks who didn’t plunk in the extra change on Kickstarter but I’m sure it’ll come soon enough. All seven discs of episodes and the 8th disc are housed in a hard multi-disc case with individual trays so no discs are stacked with a paper slipbox cover like past seasons. Each episode disc appears to be a Region Free BD-50 with another Region Free disc reserved for bonus features. Also included is a booklet featuring info about the episodes including host info, and a list of the shorts featured on each disc. The discs load to animated main menus allowing you to pick which episode, audio, and or if you just want to plug in for a short.
Grading these recent MST3K episodes isn’t exactly easy. While the host segments all look excellent, the overall video quality depends on the main feature being riffed. For some episodes, it can look pretty damned terrific, or the show can look pretty rough around the edges. Most of the time you can tell they were able to license the best available elements. Just as an example of two films I own in my collection unriffed, The Bubble and The Mask both look pretty close to their respective Blu-ray counterparts. The masking for whichever host and their respective team of bots adds an interesting sense of depth to the image like you’re looking through a window into another window but without harming the overall quality of the main feature. All around another great-looking set.
On the audio side, each episode scores a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. You can’t go wrong with either mix really, but there are some films that make better use of it. If you’re rolling the 5.1 track you may find that your surround channels really only fire up fully for the opening credits and the host segments. I felt like for Santo as an example the main film and audio spread rarely dipped into the sides and kept almost entirely Front/Center. But that could change when you get something a little newer and active like Robot Wars on the very same disc. Regardless of which mix you choose, the good news is both work. You can always hear the main feature dialog perfectly and the riffs blend in nicely. As I said in the main review it felt like the riffs were better timed so they weren’t always trying to fill every piece of dead air so you don’t struggle to hear the main film.
Talk about the mother load of extras. There's a ton of material from shorts to featurettes to new interview segments. While you can usually count them as part of the show, each disc features a couple of new shorts for you to enjoy. For the sake of argument, I’m cataloging them here in the bonus features since they don’t really play with the main episode and are more or less their own side attraction. After that, we have an entire bonus features disc dedicated to giving fans more fun content.
- Short - Pipeline to the Clouds
- Short - Let’s Make a Meal in 20 Minutes
- Short - Court Case
- Short - Sleep for Health
- Short - The Wonder of Reproduction
- Short - Cavalcade
- Short - Balance Beam for Girls
- Short - Bicycling Visual Skills
- Short - Bicycle Driver
- Short - Let’s Keep Food Safe to Eat
- Short - Mr. B Natural
- Short - Better Breakfast USA
- Short - Doing Things for Ourselves in School
- Gizmoblip Sketches:
- March ‘22 Good & Evil (HD 3:25)
- April ‘22 Dystopian Futures (HD 3:48)
- May ‘22 Pesky Critters (HD 7:51)
- June ‘22 Supernatural Summer (HD 6:57)
- July ‘22 Mega-Monsters (HD 7:45)
- Aug ‘22 Not-So-Superheroes (HD7:32)
- Sept ‘22 Espionage & Intrigue (HD 6:05)
- Oct ‘22 Halloween Horror (HD 7:30)
- Nov ‘22 Nothing as it Seems (HD 7:03)
- Dec ‘22 Winter Wonderlands (HD 7:16)
- Jan ‘23 Tech Run Amok (HD 7:18)
- Feb ‘23 Doomed Lovers (HD 7:17)
- Featured Interviews:
- Robot Wars (HD 8:19)
- Doctor Mordid (HD 6:45)
- Demon Squad (HD 8:38)
- BearManor Media (HD 4:22)
- Joey Drew Studios (HD 4:40)
- Onyx Path Publishing (HD 4:49)
- Q&A with the Cast (HD 27:53)
- Year-End Review Revue (HD 39:50)
- Original Kickstarter Video (HD 5:43)
MST3k lives again... for now! Like Christopher Lee’s Dracula, this show always manages to find a way to rise from a premature grave and entertain audiences anew. While Netflix wasn’t the lasting home fans hoped it would be, it got old fans excited and introduced itself to a whole new generation of Misties. Now on the Gizmoplex - the show thrives on its own terms and is currently crowdfunding up for a hopeful 14th season! 13 may be an unlucky number for some, but it worked for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Without Netflix and perhaps even because of the pandemic production restrictions, I felt the show regained some of its old scrappy, crafty, creativity that let it thrive in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The episodes are hilarious and it’s a joy to see Jonah and Emily both get their episodes to shine and one last Joel solo episode sweetens the deal. This set was exclusive to backers and a mass-market edition isn’t out yet, but rest assured, when/if one is available, we’ll review that too. So for now fellow Misties, turn down the lights where necessary, share the tapes, the URL, and enjoy the upcoming Turkey Day Marathon! Highly Recommended
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